Fear and anxiety are common emotions felt by both humans and animals. Just like people, some animal species tend to be more prone to anxiety than others due to their genetics, environment, past experiences, and more.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Dogs, horses, mice, birds, and chimpanzees are among the most anxious animals on the planet.

In this comprehensive guide, we will dive deep into the reasons why certain animals are more anxious than others. We will analyze the contributing factors, visible symptoms, and impacts of anxiety among the top 5 most anxious species.

We will also provide actionable tips on how to identify anxiety early and help alleviate stress in domesticated pets like dogs and horses.

What Causes Anxiety in Animals

Genetics and Biology

Just like humans, animals can suffer from anxiety due to their genetic makeup and biological factors. Certain dog breeds like German Shepherds and Border Collies are genetically predisposed to anxiety due to their high intelligence and working drive.

Hyperthyroidism in cats can also lead to increased anxiety levels. Animals with a family history of anxiety are more likely to develop issues as well. Ultimately, genetics play a huge role in determining an animal’s basal anxiety levels.

Environment and Past Experiences

An animal’s environment and past experiences are also major determinants of anxiety. Animals that have undergone trauma, abuse, or neglect are very prone to heightened anxiety and fear. Even small environmental stressors like a change in routine, moving homes, or introduction of new people/pets can trigger anxious behaviors.

Animals like rescue dogs that have been abandoned have an increased likelihood of separation anxiety. Providing stability, routine, and positive interactions can help mitigate environment-induced anxiety.

Health Issues

Underlying medical conditions can also manifest as increased anxiety in animals. For example, if a dog is experiencing chronic pain from arthritis or other issues, it may act anxious due to discomfort.

Cats with feline lower urinary tract disease often exhibit anxious behaviors like avoiding the litter box. Elderly animals are also more prone to cognitive dysfunction syndrome, resulting in disorientation, confusion, and anxiety. Getting regular veterinary checkups to rule out health issues is key.

Treating any medical conditions can help improve anxious symptoms. Some medications themselves can also cause anxiety as a side effect.

The 5 Most Anxious Animals


Man’s best friend can also be man’s most anxious friend. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left alone, leading to destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, urinating, and more. Certain breeds like border collies and German shepherds tend to be more prone to anxiety.

Some experts estimate that up to 20% of dogs have some type of anxiety, often triggered by loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks. Thankfully, there are many treatment options for anxious dogs these days, from training programs to anxiety vests to prescription medications when needed.


As a flight animal, horses are wired to be anxious and wary of potential threats. They can startle easily from noises, changes in routine, or unfamiliar objects. Highly sensitive horses may sweat, pace, bite, kick, or try to flee when anxious.

Like dogs, certain horse breeds tend to be more high-strung, like Arabians and Thoroughbreds. However, any horse can develop anxiety, especially if it had traumatic experiences or inadequate socialization. Besides behavior modification, calming supplements or sedatives can help take the edge off.

But anxious horses need patient, confident handling to build trust with their handlers.


These small rodents stress easily in captivity if not given proper environmental enrichment. Anxious behaviors seen in pet mice include barbering (hair loss from over-grooming), trembling, hiding, and aggression.

Wild mice also display anxiety living in urban settings with lots of human activity, noise, and light pollution compared to rural mice. According to a 2019 study, city mice had higher stress hormone levels and more altered gene expression related to anxiety and depression.

Providing shelters, nesting material, and toys can make pet mice feel more secure. But wild urban mice face continuous anxiety-inducing threats from humans and traffic.


Many parrot species are prone to feather plucking when stressed or bored. Other anxious behaviors seen in caged birds include screaming, aggression, pacing, and self-mutilation. Captive birds housed alone or in cramped, barren cages are at higher risk for psychological issues.

Anxiety can also cause potentially fatal conditions like egg binding or heart attacks in birds. Improving enrichment with toys, foraging activities, and bonding can greatly reduce avian anxiety. Some birds may occasionally need anti-anxiety medications too.

Sadly the pet trade fuels anxiety by removing baby birds from flocks before proper development. But conscientious owners can help rescue birds thrive through understanding and personalized care.


Our closest genetic relatives can also worry themselves sick. Wild chimps show self-directed behaviors like scratching when anxious. Captive chimps confined in laboratories or substandard zoos often rock, pace, or hurt themselves due to stress.

They may also throw things or become violent towards humans when angry or frustrated. Providing enriched habitats with climbing structures, puzzles, and social groups greatly reduces abnormal behaviors.

Researchers from Emory University found that chimps have higher baseline anxiety levels than humans, perhaps evolved for survival in the wild. But trauma and poor conditions elevate anxiety even further. Thankfully rising awareness of chimp sentience has improved welfare standards in recent years.

Still more progress is needed to prevent anxiety in humanity’s closest cousins.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Animals

Excessive Vocalizations

Anxious animals may excessively bark, meow, chirp or make other noises to express their stress. For example, dogs may incessantly bark or whine when left alone, while cats may meow loudly and persistently when feeling tense. Parrots and other birds may scream, chirp or squawk repeatedly when anxious.

These excessive vocalizations are cries for help and signs that the animal is not feeling safe or calm.

Destructive Behaviors

Chewing, scratching, digging and other destructive actions can signal anxiety in pets. Dogs may chew up furniture, shoes or anything they can get their paws on when stressed. Cats may scratch furniture or carpets excessively.

Small pets like hamsters or gerbils may bite cage bars or over-groom themselves, resulting in bald spots. These behaviors release tension but also damage the home – a clear symptom that the animal needs help calming down.

Aggression and Irritability

Anxious animals tend to be more reactive and prone to aggression or irritability. For example, an anxious dog may snap or nip when someone approaches their food bowl or favorite toy. An irritated cat may hiss, swat or scratch more readily.

Even small pets like rabbits or guinea pigs may bite or kick when feeling tense. It’s important to identify and address the root cause of the anxiety rather than attempting to punish the behavior.

Changes in Activity Levels

Extreme changes in activity levels can reflect anxiety in animals. A normally lazy cat may suddenly run around the house like a maniac. An energetic puppy may start sleeping the days away. Small animals may overeat or undereat. Reptiles and fish may hide more than usual.

These irregular behaviors suggest the animal is not at ease. Tracking patterns and watching for variances from normal habits can reveal when a four-legged or feathered friend is feeling anxious.

Tips for Helping Anxious Pets

Provide Security Through Routine

Anxiety in pets often arises from uncertainty. Providing a predictable daily routine can give anxious animals a sense of security and comfort. Feed them, walk them, and play with them at the same times each day.

Give them their own safe spaces like a crate or bed that they can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Maintaining structure and consistency will help reduce stress and anxiety in pets.

Use Pheromones and Supplements

Pheromones and supplements can help relax anxious pets. Synthetic pheromones are available as sprays, diffusers, and collars. These mimic natural comforting pheromones and provide reassurance. Calming supplements containing ingredients like melatonin, tryptophan, and chamomile may also relieve anxiety.

Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations suitable for your pet. Using pheromones and supplements alongside training is an effective approach.

Consider Prescription Medications

For severe anxiety that impairs daily functioning, prescription medications may be necessary. Sedatives like Xanax can provide short-term relief in stressful situations like thunderstorms or car rides. Longer term medications like Prozac may be prescribed for ongoing issues.

Some possible side effects include lethargy and loss of appetite. Veterinary behaviorists are the ideal professionals to consult about pharmaceutical options for anxious pets.

Helping an anxious pet requires patience, consistency, and in some cases medical support. By providing security, using calming products, and working with your vet, you can help your pet feel more relaxed and content.


In conclusion, anxiety disorders can affect animals just like humans due to a variety of factors. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and solutions, pet owners can provide the best care for anxious dogs, horses, and other domesticated creatures.

With early intervention, consistent training, pheromones, supplements, and sometimes medication, it may be possible to dramatically improve an anxious animal’s quality of life. As we deepen our knowledge of animal psychology and behavior, our ability to alleviate suffering will continue to progress.

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